Origin of apples

There are a number of species of apple trees, but it looks as the cultivated varieties mainly originated in Kazakhstan, while wild apples are very similar to cultivated varieties. In particular, they’re larger than other undomesticated species.

It has been suggested that these particular apples were selected for large fruits because their seeds were efficiently transmitted to hospitable dung piles in this manner – because bears shit in the woods.



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111 Responses to Origin of apples

  1. Gord Marsden says:

    I had read this when I lived in Kazakhstan, most of Kazakhstan is a salty plain so I am still amazed

    • NobodyExpectsThe... says:

      “With an area of 2,700,000 square kilometres (1,000,000 sq mi) – equivalent in size to Western Europe…”

      Even a “small” part of 2,700,000 square kilometres, is a chunk of land big enough to have quite a variety of landscapes.

  2. Gilbert Green says:

    In a mountain with few birds the wild boar is king. This was the case during, after the last ice age. Pigs are fattened on apples to this day in cider regions

  3. Highlander says:

    There was never any mention of bear shit in The Botany of Desire!

  4. dearieme says:

    I’ve seen someone argue that apples were spread by the horse-riding cultures of the Steppes, the idea being that apples are a handy food for horses, giving them some moisture along with the vitamins and carbohydrates.

    • Jim says:

      The word “apple” is Proto-Indo-European but it does not conform to the standard forms for PIE roots suggesting that it was borrowed by PIE from a non-Indo-European language.

  5. JMcG says:

    Now if we can get a Catholic Pope, all will be right with the world.

  6. Greying Wanderer says:

    i’ve wondered about this for a while – one of my pet theories that resulted is if there was ever a historical root to the garden of Eden concept (or the Norse equivalent with Idun’s apple garden) then it would likely be the apple (and pear) forests in southern Kazakhstan.

    (iirc also close to a holy mountain)

    • Coagulopath says:

      The Bible doesn’t mention a specific fruit, though. Apparently it was associated with apples because of a pun.

      This was possibly because of a misunderstanding of – or a pun on – mălum, a native Latin noun which means evil (from the adjective malus), and mālum, another Latin noun, borrowed from Greek μῆλον, which means apple.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        right – my take comes more from the garden of fruit aspect

        “”And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

        if you were a hunter-gatherer i’d imagine a forest of apple and pear trees might seem like paradise.

        • Jason says:

          Given the location I’d imagine more figs, dates, pomegranates and apricots, than apples and pears.

          • Greying Wanderer says:

            yeah, figs, dates etc would be the other option – the Kazakh option would require the people who lived there once moving somewhere else later.

  7. Panafancypants says:

    I read a book years ago that had a similar theory, although I think they put Eden somewhere in Iraq iirc. And angels in the Old Testament were really a race of slanty-eyed albinos.

  8. Gord Marsden says:

    Kazahkstan lies along the route that the gene pools took north before splitting east to the orient and west into Europe. Likely following the herds , but an apple forest,what a find . An aside apples and roses are related, vitamin C rich

  9. Half man-half amazing says:

    Why do I always feel you’re speaking in parables?

  10. Lior says:

    Does the apple fall far from the tree? Do bears shit in the woods?

  11. Any thoughts about the Coronavirus outbreak in China?

    • John Massey says:

      Yeah, I wish it wasn’t happening. But lower death rate than SARS in 2003. Also seems so far to be less easily transmissible – estimated on average one infected person will infect 1.4 to 2.5 other people, while for SARS it was 2 to 5. China is trying to contain it, locking down all of the cities in Hubei, not just Wuhan, and stopping tour groups from making overseas trips, but quarantine is always porous and it is already in multiple other countries. Already known that people can be infectious while asymptomatic, so that is going to make effective screening and tracking very difficult. OTOH, the Chinese + overseas collaborators were quick to get the genome and publish it on an open website, enabling pretty quick testing of suspected cases. Early symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza, so there will be a lot of false suspected cases, so pay attention only to confirmed cases. And who knows how many cryptic infected cases? Could be quite high, from what is already known.

      WHO is being dumb and sitting on their hands instead of issuing a global health alert, IMHO. It’s just a matter of time.

      Virus tracker here – you can watch the bodies piling up: https://multimedia.scmp.com/widgets/china/wuhanvirus/#

      • BB753 says:

        Aren’t the numbers also similar to seasonal influenza? This virus outbreak seems to be overblown, so far.

        • dave chamberlin says:

          The numbers are complete bullshit, and that scares me. 2000 infected and the hospitals in a city the size of New York are filled up? There are 10 hour waits for sick people to see a doctor? No way can all these statements be true. We have no idea what the situation is because the repressive Chinese government will not allow accurate reporting to be done. Like Massey said if this bug is infectious before there are symptoms, that’s bad. It probably isn’t a severe crises but we wouldn’t know until too late if it was.

          All I know for sure is a city of ten million shouldn’t have a thriving “bush meat market.” Which they do and apparently someone bought a tasty snake for dinner which got this whole epidemic rolling.

        • John Massey says:

          @BB753 – I had the same thought. The fatality rate from H1N1 swine ‘flu was/is worse. I guess the differences are there is no vaccine and it will take a long time to get one, it could yet evolve into a more lethal form, possible long term effects of infection are unknown at this point, plus there is the usual human psychological ‘dread’ reaction to an unknown or poorly understood risk. MSM all latching on to labeling it as “the deadly coronavirus” don’t help. So far, the average victim is male, 74 years old and with a pre-existing chronic health condition, which is not too scary, unless you are an elderly male with…..yeah. (Interestingly, among the reported fatalities, males outnumber females by about 10:1. We can both probably think of possible reasons for that.) But it does make quite a few people infected with it severely ill for a fairly long time, and if it spreads too much it will overwhelm the capacity of health care systems to keep them alive long enough for their immune systems to fight it off.

          @dave – The people overwhelming the hospitals in Hubei have some symptoms and are scared they might have it, but most could just have seasonal influenza. But there are certain to be a lot more people infected with it than are known about. It doesn’t need some level of government to suppress accurate reporting – overwhelmed hospital staff can’t keep up with trying to keep track of and report the numbers when they keep escalating daily and they are flooded with demands for answers to hundreds of stupid questions from thousands of journalists. General public opinion in China is that the Wuhan government reacted too slowly and that the Mayor of Wuhan should resign, but I have not seen any suggestions about suppression of data. The speed with which 2019-nCoV was identified and Xi Jinping publicly announcing that controlling the spread of it is the country’s highest priority suggest that they have not tried to keep it a secret. Also, the Chinese scientists who worked on identifying it collaborated with overseas scientists in doing that, including some from Australia, and as soon as they had the genome they posted it on a globally publicly accessible website.

          Don’t tell me that people in North America and Europe don’t eat game meat. I have eaten lots of snakes (although I might not be eating a lot more after this). But your general point is a valid one. The list of wildlife reported to have been sold at the ‘seafood’ market thought to be the source is appallingly long, and I will never understand why a lot (certainly not all) of Chinese people seem obsessed with eating as many different animals as possible, particularly the infatuation with eating ‘exotic’ animals. Who wants to eat badgers and wolf cubs? Plus despite the experience of SARS in 2003, they were selling civets. (Bangs head on desk.) Anecdotally, there were restaurants in Hubei selling bat soup (but they’re hardly alone in that – lots of Melanesians and Micronesians eat bats, at least fruit eating megabats, if not insect eating microbats). All of that is illegal in China. As usual, it has some good laws but fails badly on compliance and enforcement.

          • dave chamberlin says:

            Thanks for your informative reply. The BIG ONE, the 1918 influenza pandemic appears to be derived from Haskell County in Kansas and probably came from eating a wild bird so you are correct the whole world eats wild animals at times. Hopefully less and less as the world gets more urban and educated as to the dangers.

            I don’t want to get carried away with the present danger BUT long term the danger is very very real. Might I recommend The Great Influenza by John Barry to explain why.https://www.amazon.com/s?k=the+great+inluenza&ref=nb_sb_noss

          • John Massey says:

            Dave, tangentially, I was interested in what effect the 1918 Spanish ‘flu pandemic, which ran for almost 3 full years, had on indigenous communities. I had to search long and hard for some data, because governments were not keen to advertise them, but I finally found some data on one isolated Maori community on the north island of New Zealand: the fatality rate was more than 90%. It killed nearly all of them. Admittedly they lacked access to health care (but that wasn’t great in that era) and their culture of clustering around sick people, rather than isolating them, sure didn’t help either.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Do you of any such data for Australian natives?

            • John Massey says:

              Nope, I was unable to find any reliable data. Not helped by very poor health care (or none, particularly back then) available to remote communities, so people could have been dying like flies and no one would know about it, or actually care much at the time. Plus there is ample evidence that Australian authorities were covering up stuff like that back then and for a long time afterwards. There was anecdotal qualitative stuff about Aboriginal people being disproportionately affected, but no numbers and nothing I could hang my hat on.

              The Maori case I found was particularly useful because it was a sizeable isolated settlement, upwards of 100 people if I recall correctly, and all of the people in the settlement were Maori, and evidently with not much admixture at that time ( > 100 years ago). And the numbers had been documented and looked solid. Maori were generally held in higher regard by whites than Aboriginal people were back then for racial/cultural reasons.

          • dave chamberlin says:


            This youtube video will not inform you on the medical facts that Westhunter readers would like to know about the coronavirus. But it is very informative on how inept the Chinese have been in containing this disease and how crazy bad the Chinese culture still is in hygiene practices that we accept as normal in the west. The wet markets in China are insane. The timing of this outbreak could not have been worse. Everybody is on the move in China to visit relatives for the new year.

            Hopefully the medical facts which none of us now know are good because how the Chinese government has handled this is too little too late. 200,000 people left Wuhan for the rest of China and beyond in just the eight hour period before the announced quarantine was enforced. The cat is out of the bag and apparently for sale if you want it for dinner.

              • Young says:

                Thank you for that video link. Whatever errors they make about species of animals that are being eaten in China I suspect their observations on conditions and customs in China are generally accurate. And revolting.

                They mentioned that it is now a serious crime to use the internet to spread ‘rumors’ in China. I wonder if that is where Elizabeth Warren got the idea of criminalizing the spread of ‘fake news’ on the internet? Maybe just parallel, totalitarian thinking.

                I also noticed a hint of something I have seen in other Americans/Westerners on missions in very foreign countries. Once the starry-eyed adoration has passed the attitude sometimes shifts into ‘What the hell is wrong with you people?” Seen it before. In fact there is a video of a Chinese working in Africa saying the same thing about Africans.

            • John Massey says:

              Wet markets are selling Chinese koalas? LOL. What is a Chinese koala? Yeah, those guys are real experts. No they’re not, they’re idiots. Chinese were the first to domesticate animals? No they weren’t. Humans got measles from cattle, and pertussis from dogs, and those animals were not domesticated in China.

              Dave, if you want to post a big hit piece on China, fine by me, but at least find a good one put together by some competent people, not those morons. Of course, I might respond by posting a big hit piece on poverty and homelessness in the USA, but I probably won’t.

              The Director of the World Health Organisation is in China right now, and he is saying there is no need for foreign governments to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan. How bad does that sound to you?

            • John Massey says:

              Dave, I found out where that reference to koalas came from. Some woman in Wuhan posted a list of animals advertised for sale at the seafood market that is the suspected source of 2019-nCoV, someone else translated it from Chinese into English and somehow came up with koalas, and the dumb white South African guy in that YouTube video picked it up and believed it.

              Koalas are native only to Australia. They live on a diet of nothing but the leaves of eucalypts (gum trees). Consequently their meat absolutely reeks of eucalyptus oil, it’s full of it, to the extent that they are completely inedible. Eucalyptus oil is the stuff you sniff to clear your nose when you have a heavy cold; just the vapour makes your eyes smart. Imagine getting a mouthful of that stuff. Australian Aboriginal people never ate koalas, even though they are very easy to catch, because you can’t – totally inedible.

              So that’s where the ‘Chinese koalas’ came from LOL. There is no such thing as ‘Chinese koalas’. I don’t know what the original price list was referring to, but I saw one photo of some marmots in a cage, which is bad enough – in Central Asia they are a reservoir animal for Yersinia pestis, and anyone who eats those things must be barking mad. Y. pestis is the bacterium that caused the Black Death plague in medieval Europe, killing between 30 and 60% of the total population. It didn’t go anywhere, it’s still around – it recently killed two people in Mongolia who had eaten raw marmot liver. Those folks deserve a Darwin Award. In the USA, the reservoir animal for Y. pestis is the prairie dog.

              If you want some reasonable reading material, try these:

              “To put the cases and deaths so far into perspective, remember that seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 650,000 people each year. “Right now, you’re probably more likely to be catching flu than you are to be getting coronavirus,” said Devi Sridhar, chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh.”

              • dave chamberlin says:

                I honestly do not trust your reading material not because they did not try to have a scientific approach, they did, but because everything we are told comes through the filter of the Chinese government which is trying with all their might to keep the public from panicking. That goofy youtube by those expats I posted, I couldn’t watch it all, but what it did do is give people who haven’t set foot in China a sense of how difficult it will be for this pandemic to be contained. I would love to read the reporting by doctors who are in Wuhan and have hard data what the hell is going on. It doesn’t exist. The Chinese government won’t allow it to exist. I am encouraged that the full weight of the Chinese government is now focused on this problem. The data we have so far been given by the media of the actual conditions within China I would conclude at this point is nonsense. The numbers are flat made up and are in actuality way higher. Now that there are a confirmed 50 cases outside of China we will soon see just how deadly and infectious 2019nCoV really is because we won’t be lied to by sources outside of China. Communist China has a long long history of feeding the public propaganda and keeping an iron grip on the information that is released. Why anyone would trust their information on such an explosive subject is beyond me.

              • John Massey says:

                Not entirely filtered, Dave. Other countries and the WHO have sent observation teams to Wuhan to see first hand what is going on, and the USA has now requested permission from the Chinese government to do the same. I predict the Chinese will agree.

                If the American CDC can send a delegation to Wuhan and report back, I’m willing to accept what they report.

            • Anonymous says:

              Could be the Asian badger, or the Chinese ferret badger (different species). Or lost in translation.

            • John Massey says:

              Could be the Asian badger (subspecies of badger), or the Chinese ferret badger (different species). Or lost in translation.

              Behaviour not entirely confined to Chinese. There’s one Anglo guy in the UK who makes a practice of cooking roadkill (and he’s not alone). He once fed his special “three owl bolognaise” to some guests and let them compliment him on how tasty it was before telling them.

              But there’s obviously a particular (but overlapping) problem with selling live animals in notably insanitary wet markets.

            • dearieme says:

              I’ll bet badgers taste better than moles. Moles taste vile.

              • John Massey says:

                You should try eating a naked mole-rat – don’t need to skin them, and you can roast them until the skin is nice crispy crackling. And they look really attractive on the plate.

      • John Massey says:

        One thing I need to correct – it is now clear that 2019-nCoV is more contagious than SARS. It has infected more people in two months within China than SARS did in nine months, and that’s assuming there are no ‘cryptic’ cases of infection, which there surely are. Reported fatality rate is a lot lower than SARS so far, though – currently 2.2% as opposed to 9.5% globally for SARS (and it was 17.5% in Hong Kong, because HK got a lot of SARS cases early in the epidemic when people didn’t know what it was or how to deal with it, whereas so far HK only has eight confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV, and no fatalities yet, but there is one case of human to human transmission within one family from Wuhan who came to HK).

        • dave chamberlin says:

          Finally a source of information I can trust and is a medical professional. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN9-UXsvPBY He updates very frequently and isn’t a shrill Youtuber who doesn’t know beans about epidemiology. The mainstream press should hire this guy because their reporting on 2019-nCoV is useless.

        • John Massey says:

          What he is not telling you is that ARDS causes permanent organ damage. So if someone is severely ill from 2019-nCoV but recovers, they will have permanently diminished quality of life because of that. Obviously no one yet knows what the long term effects of being infected with it will be, but that is something that is already known. Although the fatality rate appears to be rather low, currently around 2.2%, the % of hospitalised people who are seriously ill with it is a lot higher, between 16% and 22%. (But a lot of medical experts strongly suspect that there are a lot more people being infected who are not being counted because they have only mild symptoms, so they don’t seek medical treatment, and no one knows how many of them there are – one estimate from numerical modeling by researchers at Hong Kong University is that it could be more than 45,000 by now. Those people might only be mildly ill, but they are probably still infectious.)

          Things that have me puzzled. One is that, if the coronavirus is as infectious as I think it is, we should be seeing a lot more cases outside of China by now than we are seeing. Something doesn’t add up. The Mayor of Wuhan revealed that 5 million people left Wuhan at the start of the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) holiday before it was locked down, and a lot of those people have traveled overseas. The most preferred destinations for people from Wuhan are Thailand, followed by Hong Kong (because HK is only 4.5 hours by high speed rail from Wuhan, which delivers them to a terminus right in the middle of the very densely populated and most popular tourist area, so lots of people crowded together – massive mob scenes, with lots of close contact between very large numbers of people). So far, Thailand has 14 confirmed cases of infection, all from direct close contact with tourists from Wuhan, and HK has 10, all people from Wuhan or who had close contact with people from Wuhan.

          Further, it is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people from HK traveled to Wuhan and back again in January before the travel ban. They are now back in HK. So, potentially that is a huge amount of exposure, but so far we are not seeing the rapidly increasing numbers of cases we should be seeing. People in China now have much more freedom to travel and a lot more disposable income than they had at the time of the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003. Now, 180 million tourists from Mainland China (i.e. excluding HK, Macau and Taiwan, if you count that as part of China) travel overseas every year – the world is flooded with Mainland tourists. Of course, I guess it could be that it is just early stages; the epidemic really only started to explode in Wuhan around 31 December, so we are still less than one month in, and we could see this start to happen in other countries soon. But if we don’t see a rapid increase outside of Mainland China, then it will be a big puzzle.

          Another puzzle is that they have still not been able to identify the source animal that the coronavirus has come from. It is very likely that it originated in bats like SARS did, but I mean the intermediate animal in markets selling live animals that enabled the coronavirus to jump into humans (in the case of SARS, that was civets which were being sold live in markets and which people were eating). Actually, in the very first known case of 2019-nCoV, a woman who became ill and sought medical treatment for it on 1 December last year, she said she had never been to the suspect market. They have the genome, and researchers in Australia have reported that they have successfully reproduced the genome in the lab, so they should be able to identify it fairly easily in animals, but so far they haven’t been able to. I am beginning to wonder if the source of the coronavirus is not the suspect market or markets plural after all, that there is something else going on, and that the source is still around in Hubei and still infecting people.

          Maybe they have a plague of small bats in Hubei which are biting people in their sleep. I dunno. It happens – people have contracted rabies by being bitten by bats in their sleep, and didn’t even know they had been bitten. That’s my own whacko theory and worthless because I know nothing, but I kind of like it. I have others.

          • dave chamberlin says:

            Very interesting, thanks. Two things. The Journal of Medical Virology has sequenced the RNA of 2019-NCoV and found it to be a pretty close match to a coronavirus that lives in snakes. Here’s a link to a lecture that talks about that at the 4:50 mark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vMXSkKLg2I&t=60s.
            Secondly regarding the movement of all those people out of Wuhan to the rest of China and beyond. The timing for this outbreak could not be at a worse time and place, right during the Lunar New Year when the World’s Biggest Human Migration happens, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-20/china-readies-for-world-s-biggest-human-migration-quicktake. Everybody travels to spend time with their relatives. So what does this mean for containment of very infectious disease? The very bad news starts at the 1:06 mark of the following lecture by the same medical professional I linked to earlier.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJBYwUtB83o. Worst case scenario is staggering and I will let him tell you the projections. The mayor of Wuhan has publicly stated that 5,000,000 people left Wuhan before they enforced containment but after 2019-NCov was spreading. Almost all of those people traveled within China between where they work and where they went to spend the holidays with relatives.

          • John Massey says:

            I wouldn’t say all, by any means – a lot of people from Wuhan, or people who traveled through Wuhan (because it is a major transport hub both for China’s very extensive high speed rail network and for air travel) went abroad for the holiday, hence most of the cases that have occurred in Thailand and Hong Kong. The Philippines has just shipped a whole load of people from Wuhan back to China. They went all over the place, and a hell of a lot of them.

            The authorities in Hong Kong are trying to track down all of the people from Wuhan, and all of the local people who have been to Wuhan and returned, but it’s a hopeless job – we are talking about hundreds of thousands of people. What are they going to do with them if they can find them all (which they have no hope of doing)? Put all of them in quarantine camps? They could round up all of the Wuhan people and send them back to the Mainland, by force if necessary, but they can’t send HK people back across the border – it would be illegal, and I doubt the Mainland would accept them all anyway. HK has some quarantine camps where they are sending people, but they have nothing like the required capacity for that number of people.

            I did have the mildly amusing thought that, with the deaths from H1N1 seasonal ‘flu just in California so far this winter, people from California would be better off flying to Wuhan, but they wouldn’t be allowed in.

          • John Massey says:

            As for the RNA, that is what my daughter is saying – it is “pretty close” to what has been found in snakes, but there is a segment that doesn’t match, and in fact has never been seen in any coronavirus that has been sequenced from any animal, or any coronavirus that has jumped from animals to people (and there are not many of those).

            MERS is the interesting one, which is where your preferred medical expert is a bit off track – in Saudia Arabia they had to try to persuade camel owners to stop kissing their camels.

        • John Massey says:

          One little mystery I can tell you about, from someone who knows a lot more than I do – my daughter (who is a geneticist and biochemist) tells me that there is a portion of the genome of 2019-nCoV that has never been seen in any coronavirus ever found in any animal, including in bats.

          Dave, a bit of light reading for you, published in Lancet: https://marlin-prod.literatumonline.com/pb-assets/Lancet/pdfs/S0140673620302117.pdf

          In that study of 99 infected patients in one hospital in Hubei, 17% got ARDS, and the fatality rate was 11%.

        • John Massey says:

          Here’s another one for you, from the Professor of Global Biosecurity at UNSW in Australia:

          “if the Wuhan coronavirus was highly contagious, we would expect to already have seen widespread transmission or outbreaks in other countries.”

          She seems to be as puzzled as I am.

          • dave chamberlin says:

            Hopefully this is happening. https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/news/071201_adenovirus
            Evolution from a virus’s point of view. Very simple really, a virus has less chance to spread if it puts someone flat on their back and more chance to spread if their host is walking about coughing and sneezing. This bug might be mutating to be asymptomatic.

          • John Massey says:

            It already has happened – they have found people who are asymptomatic but who are infected. I’m not sure why that would be good news if those people are infectious. They could have pneumonia and lung damage that is not apparent unless they have a CT scan, and they have the virus in their lungs, which means they would be spreading it by airborne transmission as fine aerosols, not by droplets from coughing or sneezing.

            Normal surgical face masks are useless against that kind of airborne transmission, it just sails straight through the mask. You need an N95 mask, and those are worse than useless for members of the public to use, because they are difficult to breathe through, so they keep taking them off and putting them on again, and if there is any virus on the mask they will just infect themselves that way. Medical authorities actually advise members of the public not to use them because they don’t use them correctly, so they are worse than useless.

            At least with someone with visible symptoms, you can spot them, so you can screen them. If someone is asymptomatic but infectious, that’s the worst scenario because there’s no way you can screen them – you can’t do CT scans or run tests on everyone.

            The thing to hope for is that it will mutate into a form that is actually harmless to humans, which is what happened to SARS. It’s still around, but it’s (currently) harmless. But that took quite a while to happen. It could still happen faster than they can produce a vaccine, though – they still haven’t managed to produce a vaccine for SARS that they could manufacture and administer to masses of people fast enough if it mutated into a more virulent form again.

            The other thing to hope for is that the Chinese medical scientists are doing trials of drugs to treat 2019-nCoV in people who are infected with it, to prevent the effects from becoming severe and so they recover quickly without lasting damage, and that is looking quite hopeful. They think they have nailed the right drugs, but they need to complete the trials, which they are doing now.

          • John Massey says:

            We have veered pretty far away from apples. We might not want to abuse Greg’s good nature too much more.

            • dave chamberlin says:

              Yep, you are right. One last link for interested readers who want real information from real experts on the coronavirus. Pleasure talking with you John. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xotNiLJDT-c

            • John Massey says:

              My final word: I was wrong.

              2019-nCoV is less infectious that SARS was. The reason we are seeing a lot more cases in a much shorter time is that, unlike SARS, it is infectious during the incubation period, and younger infected people have much milder symptoms or could even be completely asymptomatic, such that they might not even seek medical treatment, but they are still infectious. Trying to screen, detect cases of infected people and isolate them is far more difficult than it was with SARS once they realised and admitted the problem, and ultimately futile. So a lot more people are going to get infected. The saving grace is that the fatality rate is a lot less, although ultimately the absolute number of fatalities could end up being greater depending on the total number of older people with pre-existing health conditions who get infected, and people who have severe illness but survive could have permanent disability like permanent lung damage or other life threatening conditions from it like coronary disease.

              China thinks it can control it by locking down Hubei Province, but it is already in much bigger cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, in much smaller numbers so far than Wuhan but still considerable, and it can’t lock those down. So, while I hope they can reach a point where they can control it, and there is an element of hope that they could do it by limiting travel both within and outside of China, my feeling is that I don’t think they will be able to. I hope I am wrong.

              My other parting thought: it will need to get massively worse world wide before it kills anything like the number of people killed by seasonal influenza every year, including in countries like the USA and Australia. And it won’t kill a lot of young people or little kids, not unless it evolves a lot into something much worse. Perspective is not always everything, but it is something.

              • Highlander says:

                My parting thought is to no longer pay attention to you.

              • John Massey says:

                That’s a relief. In return I promise to continue to ignore Jacobites.

              • dave chamberlin says:

                “2019-nCoV virus is less infectious than SARS was.”
                I wish that was true but it isn’t. Watch the latest Coronavirus Epidemic Update here to find out why. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nW3xqcGidpQ

                This source gives almost daily updates on the fast evolving 2019-nCoV pandemic, go there from now on, I’m done blathering on the subject, thanks Greg for allowing such a long digression from the actual subject.

                Oddly I have first based knowledge on bears and apples. I hang out at my brothers gorgeous farm in Oregon located out near the Columbia River Gorge. He has a sizable apple orchard which is descended on by bears when the apples ripen. We couldn’t consider killing these beautiful rare creatures or building a border wall around the orchard so every fall it’s a race between us and the bears to harvest the apples. Once the bears get into his apple orchards it’s time to harvest because they are eating machines that go tree by tree eating every apple they can reach. Here’s the weird thing. They get 10 to 20% of the apples every year but in return break off so many branches that they prune the trees so we don’t have to prune nearly as much anymore. It’s AOK for the bears to munch up the apples because they help prune the trees which is essential for a good harvest the next year. Apple trees not only rely on the bears to scatter their seeds in the biggest piles of shit you ever laid eyes, excepting the TV talking heads of course, but the bears prune the trees.

              • Highlander says:

                Black bears in Oregon are anything but rare. There are tens of thousands of them all depending on how many ODFW deems are an optimal number in any given year. There are at least a half million or so black bears in the lower 48. The cubs come right up to the side of the road in Olympic and Great Smoky National Parks (and undoubtedly elsewhere) because moronic tourists stop and feed them.

              • John Massey says:

                Dave, I did watch it, and I meant to thank you for that link – that guy is very good, the best I have seen, and I will be watching all of his updates.

                Are the bears raiding your brother’s apple trees black bears or grizzlies? I googled for bears in Oregon – seems like they are mostly black bears, but there is a small population of grizzlies as well.

                There is a theory that apples were spread along the Silk Road by horses.

              • JerryC says:

                Lol, you’re just leaving the damaged branches there? That’s an interesting approach to apple growing.

  12. dearieme says:

    Dear Blogger,

                        Have you any entertaining views on viruses that you'd like to tell us about?  Especially, gasp!, Chinese viruses.
  13. anonymous says:

    In Scotland, the native wild apple is in danger of being hybridized out of existence by seedlings of domestic apples. These seedlings are found along roadsides because people throw apple cores out of their car windows:
    Of course it’s the larger, sweeter varieties of apple that get spread this way. Nobody drive down the freeway munching a small, sour crabapple.

    Maybe Old Man R1b threw apple cores out of his chariot….

  14. John Massey says:

    Horses absolutely love apples, and they don’t shit in the woods, they shit along transport routes. And apple trees grow very well fertilized with horse manure.

  15. Gord Marsden says:

    Apples, horses and horseshit , all related to Kazakhstan . Remember the movie “they shoot horses don’t they” well they do in Kazakhstan , shoot them eat them milk them , a remnant of a mobile horse culture like the Mongolians

  16. Highlander says:

    There are currently NO grizzlies in Oregon.

  17. dave chamberlin says:

    Yea I promised to shutup about the Coronavirus. So I’m a liar. Greg and company you have GOT to read this. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jmv.25682

    AAAAAAGGGHHHHH!!!!! It’s the Chinese bat snake plague. You can’t make this shit up. That coronavirus that is fucking up China and scaring the world came from a….. are you ready for this? A dirty low down batsnake. I mean WTF, a combination of a snake and a bat coronavirus. It slithers, it flies, it’s poisonous, it sees in the dark with radar, it’s a goddamn batsnake. Gird your loins, buy some masks, stock your house, the BATSNAKE PLAGUE IS COMING!!!!!

    well ….maybe not.

    • John Massey says:

      “Results obtained from our analyses suggest that the 2019‐nCoV appears to be a recombinant virus between the bat coronavirus and an origin‐unknown coronavirus.”

      You haven’t been listening to me, Dave. That is what my daughter has been trying to tell everyone, but no one has been listening to her either – there is something in the genome of 2019-nCoV that is ‘origin unknown’, never been seen in any coronavirus in any animal. Bats – very similar. Snakes – fairly similar. Identical? Nowhere.

    • John Massey says:

      “More interestingly, an origin-unknown homologous recombination was identified within the spike glycoprotein of the 2019-nCoV5, which may explain its decreased pathogenesis, snake-to-human cross species transmission, and limited person-person spread.”

      That should be good news, right? I’ve been going through the personal data of the 13 hospitalised confirmed cases in Hong Kong up to today. There is one woman of 37 years old, two guys who are 39, the next is 47, one of 56 and the rest are all over 60. The authorities in the Chinese Mainland have been saying that most infected people have been in the age group 40 – 60, and most of the fatalities have been elderly (which means 65 or older) and/or with pre-existing chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, COPD, etc.

      That surely does not mean that no one under 37 is being infected. It is already known that a 10 year old boy was infected but asymptomatic except for some changes to his lungs revealed by a CT scan. A young woman in Australia has been found to be infected, but she is not sick enough to need treatment in hospital and is being isolated in her own home.
      I’m as close to certain as I can be that there are lots of younger people being infected, but they are either asymptomatic or have symptoms too mild for them to feel the need to get medical treatment, so they are not being detected. I guess it could also mean that there are healthier older people who are not getting serious symptoms either. (Well, a man can hope, can’t he?)

      As your (and now my) favourite YouTube guy said, that should be good news, because it means the true fatality rate is actually a lot lower that 2%. I guess the bad news is that all of those extra folks who are not being counted are infectious, including after they recoverd, like the German guy was, but these researchers are talking about ‘limited person-person spread’, which again has to be good news.

      The other thing – this is a very early call and I should have learned my lesson by now, but I have been eye-balling the cumulative graph of daily total infections in Mainland China, and it looks to me like it is peaking. I asked my daughter to look at it, and she said she wants to see more data over the next few days to confirm it, but she thinks I might be right. MIGHT be right.

      Well done on finding that paper, Dave. That is really interesting, and not a little encouraging. And also very weird, but it is what it is.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      Another solid link for people who want to cut through the bullshit and get the facts regarding coronavirus. https://www.wavy.com/news/health/track-the-coronavirus-outbreak-in-real-time-though-interactive-map-from-johns-hopkins/
      Here is a question Greg Cochran might be interested in following up on. We already know that the Spanish Flu was far more deadly to certain ethnic groups, is 2019-nCoV the same? I ask this because it sure looks that way from the admittedly small sample size we have. 0 deaths outside of China, 259 within it’s borders. Greg is always interested in recent human evolution, and shows up far more in disease resistance than anything else for obvious reasons. Check out the graph that Johns Hopkins updates provides. We are now getting hard data that we can start to trust because the CDC and WHO are now let into China and are providing data that isn’t so bullshit smelly. We can beat the panic drums like the Youtubers are and shriek !2,204 cases!!! , but I think the key to follow is that daily graph. Is it continuing to grow exponentially or is it leveling off. It appears to be leveling off. Let’s hope that continues.

      • John Massey says:

        As of midnight last night, 14,380 known cases in Mainland China and 171 in the rest of the world combined. Known fatality rate 2%. 171 x 0.02 = 3.4 deaths, whereas there have been 0. Very unconvincing.

        Plus a lot of the cases outside of the Mainland will be ethnic Chinese (e.g. in Hong Kong, Macau. Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and maybe also in Canada, the USA and Australia, and likely also in Europe). Ethnicity is not reported with the figures. The only instance where I think it can be assumed are the four cases of Pakistani students who were infected while in Wuhan – safe to assume they are fairly young, so won’t die.

        Plus the ages of the confirmed cases are not known in detail (except for figures I have for Hong Kong which suggest that only people aged around 40 and above get infected, which I find very suspicious and not credible – in which case there should be a lot more infected people but a much lower fatality rate), and their health status prior to infection is not reported.

        Conclusion: None.

      • John Massey says:

        As for new cases, of course both new known infections and fatalities are continuing to increase daily, but unless there is a big spike in the next few days, you are right – the daily rates of new infections and deaths are slowing, and the curve is flattening off. The Mainland authorities previously predicted that the epidemic in the Mainland would peak around February 5 to 8, which sounded optimistic to me at the time, but it looks like they might be right.

      • John Massey says:

        First reported death outside of Mainland China sheds absolutely no light at all. The Philippines reported its first case of infection on January 30 and first death on February 1. They don’t say whether it was the same person.

        The deceased was a 44 year old Chinese male (presumably a resident of the PI, but they don’t say) who was accompanied by a 38 year old Chinese female who traveled from Wuhan to the Philippines via Hong Kong on 21 January; no information on whether she was infected and infected him or not. He died of severe pneumonia (sounds like ARDS, like in other cases).

        It’s all pretty unsatisfactory reporting on their part – if she didn’t infect him, how did he get infected? And if she did, then surely they would have reported two infected individuals, not one. Plus no information on any prior health condition he might have had – going by what has happened so far, 44 is young for a fatality (but full data are not available from Mainland China, so we can’t know – all they have said is that most infected people are in the 40 – 60 age range, about which I am very skeptical – I think they are missing a lot of people because they are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms).

  18. Smithie says:

    So, you are saying it was a bear with the runs and not Johnny Appleseed?

    BTW, without knowing the chronology, I am going to imagine it was a cave bear with the runs that got the thing started: biggest pile. Kind of like how they tell you to plant the tree where the outhouse used to be.

    • John Massey says:

      I was entertained to learn that Johnny Appleseed was a real guy.

    • John Massey says:

      When we were living out in the bush, our toilet was essentially a metal bucket with a seat on top, housed in a small outhouse (full of spiders), and it was my father’s job every week to empty the bucket into a hole and bury the contents. Where he emptied the buckets there grew magnificent crops of tomatoes, but my mother refused to eat them.

      • Smithie says:

        I once got a little shy of eating eggs, after I saw chickens eat a mouse.

        It was really quite spectacular though. Everything a fan of dinosaurs would want to see, minus the teeth.

  19. dave chamberlin says:

    A running dialogue by any of us on the corona virus isn’t as good as simply providing links to the best sources. February 2nd updates.
    “based on cases reported and assuming a 10 day delay between infection and detection researchers estimated that the number of actual infections may be 10 times higher.”

    update #8 by MedCram.com


    • dave chamberlin says:

      So what is happening now, and what is happening next. Simple questions, very complex answers. Odds are overwhelming that 2019n-Cov is running out of control in a matter that can’t be controlled in China. Just look at the data in maps and trends I provided. What they show in simplified and unfiltered english is this… China is fucked until a vaccine is found. But fortunately it will be very long. Three months tops. So folks outside of China don’t swoon, you will be OK. If you are Chinese, go ahead and swoon, You are in for a rough time. The rest of the world will say. “Don”t Come Here.” and you will be in a bit of a rough stretch. You shouldn’t have shoved those snakes and bats, in your pie hole. it won’t serve you right to suffer but BUT…..WTF…. why did do you do it.

      • John Massey says:

        I’m still skeptical about the snakes. Plus the problem is not eating animals if properly cooked, it’s keeping them live in wet markets, and problems often come from contact with an animal’s feces.

        How about pet ducks? https://www.facebook.com/CUTOpets/videos/2521522388062947/

        Any chickens on your brother’s farm? You want to watch out for those buggers. The fatality rate from H5N1 is often 100%.

      • John Massey says:

        The country/region outside of Mainland China which has the most confirmed cases is Japan with 20, but 5 of those are asymptomatic. Next highest is Thailand with 19 (and they claim they have cured at least one of those with a cocktail of antivirals used to treat influenza and HIV – good for them).

        Hong Kong is contiguous with the Mainland, and tens of thousands of HK people cross the border every day to go to work or school in the Mainland, and then come back again. HK still only has 15 cases. Full data for HK: The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health has received reports of a total of 882 cases fulfilling the reporting criteria of Severe Respiratory Disease associated with a Novel Infectious Agent, including 15 confirmed cases and 699 cases which were ruled out as novel coronavirus infection. 168 suspected cases are still in isolation wards in hospitals for investigation.

        So, of the total cases of those who have been already been cleared + those who have been confirmed, the rate of confirmed cases is 2%.

        So it’s not exactly racing through the HK community, at least not yet; not unless a lot of cases are asymptomatic or mild and are slipping under the radar.

        So far there is only one case in HK which is suspected might have been by local person to person transmission. Or might not.

      • dave chamberlin says:

        It’s a terrible tragedy. The links above should suffice those who want detailed scientific updates. I keep checking the graph on medcram corona virus updates hoping that this can be brought under control. It doesn’t look likely. Let’s hope that China can make vaccines as fast as they make hospitals. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/03/nih-dr-anthony-fauci-25percent-of-china-coronavirus-cases-very-serious.html

      • John Massey says:

        Is it a terrible tragedy? Sure, all deaths are tragedies, but how terrible is it really, at least so far? Bearing in mind what Fauci has said, which is spot on – they have a severe shortage of test kits in Hubei, so people with mild symptoms are being turned away from hospitals without being tested. That means two things: 1) there are far more people who are infected but are not known about, because they have only mild symptoms; but that means that the true fatality rate is a lot lower than 2%; 2) of the people who have tested positive, a high % of people are severely ill because it is a sample heavily biased towards people who have more severe symptoms.

        So far this winter, the US CDC estimates that 13 million Americans have been infected with influenza, of whom about 10,000 have died; fatality rate 0.07%. Serious question: Which is the greater tragedy? To make a more direct comparison, I have no figures on how many people in Wuhan have died so far this winter from seasonal influenza, but it is certain to be far higher than have died so far from 2019-nCoV.

        I get it. I do. The coronavirus is one disease the world didn’t need to have, it is early days yet, and it could yet grow to become something much worse globally. But it will need to escalate hugely to become anywhere near as bad as the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, which originated in Mexico and the USA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_flu_pandemic
        “It is estimated that 11–21% of the global population contracted the illness, and 151,700–575,400 died.”

        I’m not being sanguine about it. I’m in the ‘death zone’ myself, so to speak (being an older person with pre-existing health conditions), and I definitely don’t want my family to have to go to some awful cold quarantine camp for 14 days, but some perspective is warranted.

    • John Massey says:

      Compare to the “silent epidemic” that preceded the known outbreak of H1N1.


  20. John Massey says:


    For those who don’t know, Thailand has a very good health care system, better than many Western countries.

    My daughter has cautioned against too much rejoicing just yet, noting that viruses frequently mutate to become immune to antiviral drugs.

  21. dearieme says:

    Enough of apples. What I want to know is how bananas became so widespread long before Europeans sailed into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The start of an account is here:

    OK, but how did bananas spread from Sri Lanka to West Africa?

    • dearieme says:

      Ah: “one hypothesis suggesting a trans-African route from the east coast of Africa into west Africa and another suggesting circumnavigation”. From

      Click to access Castillo&Fuller_Banana%20chapter.pdf

      In other words, no one knows.

    • John Massey says:

      One tip – if you are hacking your way through the jungle in SE Asia and see wild bananas growing, don’t eat them – a lot of wild banana variants are toxic.

      One way the old Kris (or Keris) makers used to make the blades toxic was to chop them into the trunk of a toxic banana palm, so that the toxic sap remained on the blade. Another way was to beat arsenic into the blades – not sure how well that would have worked, but I have an antique Kris that I bought for peanuts from a poor guy in a back alley in Kuala Lumpur in the early 1970s which is still razor sharp, and I avoid scratching myself with the blade, just in case. (Not to mention what other nasties I might get from it.)

      Kris are alleged to have magical properties, and I think a lot of that folklore arose because the makers used to make the blades toxic.

      They used to use metal from meteorites to make the blades, and they would make them by doubling over and beating out the metal thousands of times, so they are highly striated, and as strong and springy as hell. They are really something; at least, the very old ones like mine are. The blades are characteristically wavy, not straight – I guess I don’t need to paint you a picture of why they made them that way.

      • dearieme says:

        If you incorporate toxic metals in the blades how do the blacksmiths survive?

      • John Massey says:

        They didn’t stab or cut themselves, plus maybe they didn’t handle the toxic metals with their bare hands, evidently knowing that they were toxic. Plus maybe they didn’t survive all that long – there are plenty of occupations in the past that had limited life expectancy. A classic one from Australia was asbestos miners, and that was relatively pretty recent.

  22. frege23 says:

    There seems to be an opportunity to educate some philosophers about your research at Brian Leiter’s blog. It would be interesting if you could engage some of the people there and clear up their misconceptions.

  23. John Massey says:

    People keep saying that the fatality rate from 2019-nCoV (hopefully soon to be given a more catchy name, no pun intended) is about 2%, based on the total numbers of known fatalities and known cases of infection.
    So, numbers:
    Wuhan – 4.9% (Yikes!)
    Hubei, outside of Wuhan – 3.1% (Slightly less vociferous yikes.)
    The rest of Mainland China put together – 0.16% (Very much less of a concern.)

    Why the big differences? Because the hospitals in Wuhan, and to a slightly lesser extent in the rest of Hubei, have been hopelessly overwhelmed, and they have only been able to test and treat the most severely ill people. Hospitals in all of the other provinces have not been overwhelmed, so they have been able to treat everyone (and I assume able to test them).

    During the current ‘flu season in the USA, the CDC estimates that the fatality rate so far from seasonal influenza is about 0.07% – lower than 0.16%, but it is in the same ball park. And it kills people largely in the same groups – elderly people and people with prior chronic health conditions (although seasonal influenza also kills some very young children, which the coronavirus doesn’t seem to so far – the youngest known victim is 9 months old, and last I heard she is still alive and doing OK).

    The fatality rate of the coronavirus outside of Mainland China so far? Excluding two Chinese people who had direct links with Wuhan and had serious prior health conditions, the fatality rate so far is zero.

    The other thing to consider is what the R0 is (i.e. how infectious it is). So far it seems to be higher than seasonal influenza, but again that is heavily influenced by the Wuhan data. People with more severe symptoms will be shedding a lot more virus. Chinese doctors publishing papers in Lancet are really not helping that much in this regard, because they are using samples of people hospitalized in Hubei. They are helping a lot in understanding the disease, but not with the wider picture that most members of the public want to know: 1) How likely am I to catch it? 2) If I do, how likely am I to die from it? The answer to the second question so far is – if you live anywhere with a decent health care system and it doesn’t get overwhelmed by sheer numbers, not very.

    • gcochran9 says:

      On the whole, I believe your thinking on this is mistaken.

    • John Massey says:

      Good. That is exactly what I want. I am racking my brain trying to understand it as it is developing, and airing my thoughts in the hope of getting some informed push back to steer me better.

      I would greatly value your view on why I am wrong.

    • dave chamberlin says:

      GIGO. Garbage in garbage out. All these math calculations on data dependent on what the Chinese are telling us are like 50 pounds of apples sputtering out a gorging bears asshole. Have the Chinese ever told the world truthfully about their troubles? NO. Don’t believe them now. I don’t care how many WHO and CDC experts are over there, They are just intermediate shit shovelers.

      Here is an expert telling the truth as best as he knows it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WLk-Mxydrk. Start at 2:10 for the prediction going forward.

      I don’t like your thinking either. You aren’t anywhere near an expert and they are out there now. I don’t think I like my past thinking on Coronavirus anymore either so don’t get all indignant about that. So let’s shut up and just add links to better experts than us.

      • John Massey says:

        That tedious old duffer gets multiple things wrong. Everything else he says I already know – I lived through the SARS epidemic in Hong Kong in 2003 and learned a lot from that.

        Dave, if you don’t like my thinking, no one is forcing you to read it. I hope you are not doing what you accuse the Chinese of and trying to shut down discussion/freedom of speech.

        • dave chamberlin says:

          Begone belching bilious vapor of ill wind. I summon you to inhabit another body. Well I could be more logical but why bother.

        • John Massey says:

          What does the tedious old duffer talk about in #10 and #11? Inter alia, at tedious length about fecal-oral route of infection (knew that in 2003), aerosols from toilet flushing and the desirable practice of closing the lid before flushing (knew that in 2003), long survival of virus on surfaces termed ‘fomites’, especially at lower temperatures (knew that in 2003). Careful and frequent hand cleaning is the single most important thing you can do to avoid infection. Second: avoid transmission by droplets from coughing and sneezing – contrary to his assertion, droplets can be transmitted distances of 1 – 2 metres, or 3 to 6 feet in your money. Aerosols are a difficult problem because they can be transmitted much further, and the individual virus particles are small enough to whistle straight through even the better masks like N95 (diameter of 2019-nCoV molecules is 0.12 microns), but the probability is lower, and the viral load delivered is lower. But aerosols can also be emitted by people just breathing, especially if they have lower respiratory tract infections like they are getting with 2019-nCoV.

          One other thing I learned about viruses generally – how severely you get sick is a function, among other things, of the viral load that you receive.

          SARS in Hong Kong finally stopped dead when the ambient air temperature reached 28 degrees Celsius in early summer and stayed there, because the SARS coronavirus couldn’t survive outside of the human body, including on fomites, at that temperature, so the chains of transmission were broken.

          Corrections please to any of the above that I have got wrong. After all, I’m just a belching bilious vapour of ill wind who knows nothing.

          • Highlander says:

            Please, please, just STFU! (both of you)

          • John Massey says:

            I hope this does not become a global pandemic and affect your community the way it is affecting mine. But if it does, I predict you will be as keen as I am to try to understand it and seek rational discussion to try to keep ahead of it. Telling people to shut up is not the way to go, as the Wuhan government has amply demonstrated. I could also add that this is Greg’s blog, and shutting people up is his prerogative, not yours or Chamberlin’s.

  24. RohadtMagyar says:

    I should point out that coincidentally (or maybe not), the former capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty, means apple. Almaty was once called ‘Alma-Ata’ which means ‘father of apples’ in Kazakh.

    FWIW Alma also means apple in Hungarian, and one could say “alma atya” in Hungarian (Apple Father) and be grammatically correct.

  25. Rob says:

    What happened to ‘Not the Flu’? Is it the flu, now?

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